Important note: The material below is not legal advice and is not to be relied on in the absence of advice by an attorney. Only your attorney can advise you as to the applicable statute of limitations in your case. Please consult with an attorney before making any decision as to the statute of limitations in your case.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts?
The statute of limitations in Massachusetts typically sets a three-year time frame for most civil cases. Criminal cases will fall under a different statute of limitations in MA, depending on the specific offense. Statutes of limitations must be adhered to to ensure the validity of a legal claim: If a claim is not timely, it can be dismissed, even if you have a strong case.
What Is the Massachusetts Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases?
The Massachusetts statute of limitations for personal injury states, “Except as otherwise provided, actions of tort, actions of contract to recover for personal injuries, and actions of replevin shall be commenced only within three years next after the cause of action accrues.” (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 2A)
Construction Liability Statute of Repose
Plaintiffs have six years from the earlier of either the improvement’s opening for use or substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession by the property owner. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260 § 2B)
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases applies here as well.
“In the context of toxic torts, where the harm may not have been manifested by the onset of disease, notice of harm and cause in many cases may not occur until the plaintiff is so advised by a physician.” (Donovan v. Philip Morris USA Inc., 455 Mass. 215, 228, 914 N.E.2d 891, 903 (2009))
“An action to recover damages under this section shall be commenced within three years from the date of death, or within three years from the date when the deceased’s executor or administrator knew or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known of the factual basis for a cause of action, or within such time thereafter as is provided by section four, four B, nine or ten of chapter two hundred and sixty.” (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 229, § 2)
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Massachusetts “shall be commenced only within three years next after the cause of action accrues,” with some exceptions. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 2A)
Under the Massachusetts medical malpractice statute of limitations, a cause of action for medical malpractice accrues when the plaintiff “(1) knew or had sufficient notice that [the plaintiff] was harmed; and (2) knew or had sufficient notice of the cause of the harm.” (Lindsay v. Romano, 427 Mass. 771, 774 (1998), quoting from McGuinness v. Cotter, 412 Mass. 617, 627 (1992))
There is no requirement that a plaintiff have notice that the defendant was actually responsible for the injury, only that they have knowledge or sufficient notice that the medical care given by the defendant may have caused the injury. (Lindsay v. Romano, 427 Mass. 774)
Under the discovery rule, the limitation period starts when “the connection between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s alleged injury becomes either known or knowable.” (Doe v. Creighton, 43)
Malpractice (Other Professions)
This statute of limitations covers legal, accountant, and dental malpractice. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 4)
Product liability cases fall under the same statute as personal injury cases.
A cause of action ordinarily accrues on the occurrence of some appreciable injury, regardless of whether the full extent to the injury is known at that time. (Gore v. Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Inc., 17 Mass. App. Ct. 645, 461 N.E.2d 256 (1984))
However, when “the injury is latent or “inherently unknowable,” the discovery rule applies and the action does not accrue until plaintiff knows or reasonably should have known that he has been injured.” (McGuinness v. Cotter, 412 Mass. 617, 621, 591 N.E.2d 659, 662 (1992))
Fraud cases are governed by the same statute of limitations as personal injury cases.
Municipal Liability/Sovereign Immunity
Most municipal acts have a three-year statute of limitations. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 258, § 4). Under the Tort Claims Act, the state is not immune to prosecution. However, public employees retain immunity for acts committed in the course of their employment, with the exception of intentional torts. Remedy does not extend to punitive damages or any damages in excess of $100,000 per plaintiff or to prejudgment interest. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 258, § 2).
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Breach of Contract in Massachusetts?
Note that while the statute of limitations for breaching express/implied contracts is six years, the statute of limitations for contracts under seal is 20 years. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 1).
Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff must be less than 51% at fault for causing their injuries to recover damages. The amount of damages will be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of negligence.
Charitable organizations are not entirely immune to prosecution, but their liability may be limited in certain situations.
For minors or persons with mental illnesses, the statute of limitations runs from the removal of this legal disability. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 7). Legal action must be taken under the Massachusetts medical malpractice statute of limitations in cases involving infants within three years or before they turn 9, whichever is later. The maximum limitation is seven years after injury except for foreign object cases.
Punitive damages are allowed in certain circumstances, but numerous statutory rules apply to punitive damage awards.
Massachusetts is a no-fault state.
Victims of hit-and-run accidents have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, claims are further restricted by a six-month statute of limitations for filing once the plaintiff learns the identity of the defendant.
How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Settle a Claim in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, insurance companies are generally supposed to pay out claims within seven days, but this is not a guaranteed timeline because external factors often have an effect on how claims are processed, which can create a delay.
Consumer Fraud Complaints
Address complaints to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division, either online or by calling (617) 727-8400.
For a more detailed understanding of these statutes of limitations, make sure to contact an experienced lawyer who can help figure out the timeline based on your specific case.